The FourFourTwo Preview: Southampton vs Tottenham
Job interviews for Tim Sherwood and Mauricio Pochettino in the Glenn Hoddle Derby, with Daniel Levy to put all three names into a hat and pick one at random.
- Newcastle 1-1 So’ton (Prem)
- So'ton 1-1 Man City (Prem)
- So'ton 2-3 Aston Villa (Prem)
- Chelsea 3-1 So'ton (Prem)
- Arsenal 2-0 So'ton (Prem)
- Tottenham 1-2 West Ham (LC)
- Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool (Prem)
- Tottenham 4-1 Anzhi (EL)
- S'land 1-2 Tottenham (Prem)
- Fulham 1-2 Tottenham (Prem)
The injury-stricken Saints have hit a stumbling block lately, however, winning none of their last five matches despite scoring five goals, but to go on a bad run yet remain within touching distance of the European places is a sign of how far they’ve come. Pochettino has played a major part.
The Argentine’s appointment was the exact opposite of events at White Hart Lane right now. While Nigel Adkins’ sacking was, like that of Andre Villas-Boas, undoubtedly harsh (it came off the back of a lively draw at Stamford Bridge), Southampton clearly had a plan: Pochettino was hired the same day. Spurs don’t seem to have a plan.
Certainly appointing an interim manager to the end of the season, after jettisoning a man who above all needed time to work with a new squad, would reveal Mr Magoo-esque myopia.
Southampton’s swap was ridiculed – they were branded “a laughing stock” by club legend Matt Le Tissier – but the right decision is rarely a popular one. And it was the right decision (though it’d be nice to see Adkins’ headmasterly demeanour back in the Premier League).
Tottenham, meanwhile, find themselves back at Square One without a paddle. They need to pick a new manager among scant offerings, keep up the pace over a packed fixture schedule and cope without the newly injured Andros Townsend.
Things are looking up. No, wait – what’s the opposite of up?
Losing Townsend is a real blow, but Tottenham do at least have something resembling a defence again after four of the back-line were absent for the 5-0 defeat against Liverpool. Vlad Chiriches and Danny Rose return, but Younes Kaboul remains on the treatment table and Jan Vertonghen’s blood is still in the washing machine. Sandro is injured, Paulinho suspended and Harry Kane unable.
Many in Southampton’s squad are still waiting for a hospital bed, with Artur Boruc (hand), Victor Wanyama (leg), Danny Fox (hamstring), Kelvin Davis (37-year-old’s back), Guly do Prado (bloaty head), and Nathaniel Clyne (pelvis) all unavailable. But Morgan Schneiderlin is back to boss the midfield.
Player to watch: Mousa Dembele (Tottenham)
With Tim Sherwood deploying Dembele in a theoretical holding role midweek, the Belgian may be expected to fulfil more defensive duties in this game (though to be frank, it’d be suicidal to play him in that position without a genuine holding midfielder alongside him; with Sandro out it would have to be Etienne Capoue, assuming he’s not required in defence).
Dembele is probably Tottenham’s best player at turning defence into attack, but often does so at too slow a pace. With Southampton likely to have the majority of possession, as they did in both league defeats to Spurs last season, Dembele will have to move things along more rapidly. Ultimately it depends which Mousa Dembele turns up (and we don’t mean the lad at Fulham). Imperious against Chelsea, deleterious against Liverpool, the midfielder can either make Tottenham tick or wind everybody up. God, that was awful. Sorry.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 1-0 So’ton (Prem, May 13)
- So’ton 1-2 Spurs (Prem, Oct 12)
- So’ton 1-0 Spurs (Prem, Mar 05)
- Spurs 5-1 So’ton (Prem, Dec 04)
- So’ton 1-0 Spurs (Prem, Mar 04)
He’ll need to turn around this brief run of bad form first, but Pochettino could have his eyes on Europe. With the League Cup final likely to be a Manchester derby, it’s very possible that the team finishing seventh in the Premier League could qualify for the Europa League (providing two of the top six contest the FA Cup final at the end of the season). Still, baby steps and all that, especially with players absent through injury.
Sherwood declared his intentions with an attacking line-up against West Ham: two wingers, two strikers and two fingers up at the idea of a midfield anchorman. That potential tactical naivete will be tested here, and it’s important for Sherwood – who calls himself “very opinionated” – to manage the aggressive, combative nature associated with him and his lookalike, Jeremy Kyle [ed: really?].
TIPS & TRENDS
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Facts and figures
- There have been at least 3 goals in 8 of Southampton’s last 11 home games against top-half sides.
- There have been 3 or more goals in nine of Spurs' last 14 away matches.
- Only Arsenal have a better away record than Spurs this season, having scored 9 more goals.
- Jay Rodriguez has scored Southampton's first goal in 3 of their last 4 league games.
- Spurs have hit more shots on target away from home than any other Premier League team this season (47).
No striker has scored a league goal for Spurs since October 27.
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More Spurs misery: Saints 3-1 Sinners.